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I'm using an old laptop as a personal file server among other things on my home network. It's running Ubuntu 10.04 Server from a TurnKeyLinux installation. I'd like to enable a timeout on the display so that it doesn't burn the backlight 24/7 with no one actually looking at.

Ideally, it would just timeout and darken after a while and come back when a key is pressed, but disabling it altogether would be acceptable. I normally just ssh into it.

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You could just keep the lid closed. – Mechanical snail Aug 4 '11 at 19:28
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Take it apart and unplug the back-light. :)

Your notebook probably has an internal/external monitor toggle key, perhaps toggle it to 'external' with no external monitor attached?

Or perhaps check out vbetool:

Use vbetool to turn off the backlight in an LCD display from the Linux command line. This is useful if using Linux on a laptop computer in text mode. The normal screen blanking utilities do not turn off the backlight, leaving a dull glow and using power unnecessarily. The vbetool utility can manipulate the VESA DPMS (Display Power Management Signaling) features of the display. DPMS can turn off the backlight. Use vbetool dpms off to turn it off, vbetool dpms on to turn it on.

This is not a screensaver, the display will not turn back on by using the keyboard, it has to be turned back on with vbetool or reboot the computer. Remotely accessing the computer with ssh can be used to turn the display on or blind typing on the console can be used. The vbetool command could be put in a startup script like rc.local to boot with the display off.

Above blurb from here.

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It does have the toggle switch, but it's apparently controlled in software that is not running. vbetool does the trick. Thanks! – Jonathan Swinney Aug 4 '11 at 19:40
too good. thanks! – thevikas Jun 14 at 15:24

If X11 is running, use xset dpms .... For example:

xset dpms 120 180 240

would set 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 for the monitor's standby, suspend, and off modes. (On LCD displays, however, all three modes seem to be equivalent. Easiest is to just use same value for all three modes.)

For the Linux console, use setterm.

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OK, then my naturally next question is: how do I start X on boot? – Jonathan Swinney Aug 4 '11 at 19:30
Not sure where to change it in Ubuntu, but you'll want to change your upstart config to boot into runlevel 5. Runlevel 3 gives you the console. If you installed server version, you'll probably need to instal Xorg metapackage, without a desktop environment. – Joe Internet Aug 4 '11 at 19:41
@Jonathan: "For the Linux console, use setterm." – grawity Aug 4 '11 at 20:09
@grawity: setterm on my system doesn't seem to accept dmps as an option. vbetool accomplishes the job, though. – Jonathan Swinney Aug 7 '11 at 19:09

What about closing the lid? That should shut off the backlight (unless the switch is broken).

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Either that switch it controlled by software or it's broken. I think it's controlled in software because it wouldn't work when XP hung way back when I used to use the thing as my main computer. – Jonathan Swinney Aug 4 '11 at 19:29

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